An alternator is one of the essential parts of your vehicle. It powers your car battery, making it possible to ignite your car and keep other electronic parts of your vehicle, such as the radio and air conditioner, working. That means your car will not start with a dead or faulty alternator. You are likely to experience the following warning signs.
Dim or too bright accessory lights
When your car has a faulty alternator, it manifests as overworking or underperforming accessories, that is, headlights that are too dim or excessively bright. You are also likely to experience lights that go dim to bright and vice versa. When your car alternator is faulty, it provides inconsistent voltage to the car accessories, which is how you know you need to replace it.
Difficulty starting the car
Another sign of a failing alternator is difficulty starting your car or frequent stalling. In this case, you will often hear a clicking sound when you turn the engine which means that the alternator is not powering the battery. You may also experience frequent stalling, which signifies that the alternator is not charging the spark plugs enough to keep the engine running. Alternator replacement costs range between $375-1100 and can save you more costly repairs in the future, so it is best to replace a failing alternator.
A dead battery
While a dead battery could be caused by leaving the car accessories on when parking, it could also mean that your current battery has completed its lifespan. Other times, it could be a warning sign of a faulty or dead alternator. The alternator powers the battery when the engine is running and will not do that if it is defective, causing the battery charge to run out faster.
So how do you determine which is dead between the alternator or battery? You can jumpstart the car to test both of them. If the vehicle keeps running, you may need to replace your battery soon, but if the engine stops running shortly after, the alternator is not giving the battery enough power.
Whining or grinding noise
A whining or grinding noise from your alternator is another warning sign of a problem. A whining sound from the voltage regulator signals the alternator to charge more while grinding due to a dirty, broken, or worn-out bearing. If you hear these sounds, get a mechanic to check the hood as soon as possible. The sounds could also mean that the battery is not transferring enough electricity to the alternator, so the battery should also be tested.
The smell of burning wires or rubber
A foul smell of burning wires or rubber indicates that some elements of the alternator are worn out. Usually, the alternator is close to the hot engine, so it is under constant friction and tension and may wear out over time resulting in the unpleasant burning rubber smell. Alternatively, an alternator working too hard to transfer electricity can cause the wires to overheat and emit a foul odor. In that case, getting the alternator replaced is the best solution.